Sophie’s World is arguably Jostein Gaarder’s most famous work, and while it is an amazing achievement that fuses the history of philosophy with a curious mystery novel, I think there are many of Gaarder’s novels that transcend this one and should be at the top of your reading list.
I’ve read most of Gaarder’s novels, and enjoyed a lot of them (the least we say about The World According to Anna the better), but my absolute favourites are:
The Orange Girl
“If I’d chosen never to the foot inside the great fairytale, I’d never have known what I’ve lost. Do you see what I’m getting at? Sometimes it’s worse for us human beings to lose something dear to us than never to have had it at all.”
The Orange Girl tells the story of 15 year old Georg, whose father wrote him a letter before he died telling the story of The Orange Girl, an elusive woman he loves that Georg tries to understand his father’s connection with and ultimately unravels the mystery of. This is a beautiful romance with fairy-tale like qualities exploring the relationship between father and son, as the son discovers hidden secrets and qualities he never knew existed in his father.
The Solitaire Mystery
“I sat thinking how terribly sad it was that people are made in such a way that they get used to something as incredible as living. One day we suddenly take the fact that we exist for granted – and then, yes, then we don’t think about it anymore until we are about to leave the world again.”
The Solitaire Mystery takes place on a road-trip, when Hans Thomas and his father travel from Norway to Greece in search of Hans Thomas’s mother, who left in order to find herself when Hans Thomas was still very young. On the way, Hans Thomas is given a miniature book inside a sticky bun. The miniature book tells the story of a sailor who was shipwrecked on an island where a deck of cards comes to life. The story questions the meaning of life and reality in a highly imaginative adventure of discovery.